The Fifth Estate


The avoidable costs of congestion in Australia’s capital cities could reach up to $37.3 billion a year by 2030, a new study from the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has found.

BITRE’s new Traffic and congestion cost trends for Australian capital cities information sheet identifies long-term trends in urban traffic growth and estimates the consequent impacts of that traffic growth on road network congestion levels within the Australian capital cities.

It suggests that the “avoidable” costs (where the benefits to road users of some travel in congested conditions are less than the costs imposed on other road users and the wider community) for the 2015 financial year will be around $16.5 billion, having grown from about $12.8 billion for 2010.

These costs are due to extra travel time needed, greater travel time variability, increased vehicle operating costs and poorer air quality.

The report adds that if Australia continues under a business-as-usual scenario, the costs of metropolitan congestion could rise to between $27.7 and $37.3 billion a year by 2030.

Brisbane’s avoidable costs could almost triple by 2030

Using aggregate indicators of a city’s overall average traffic condition, the study shows that Brisbane would see the largest increase in avoidable costs, rising from current levels of around $2.3 billion a year to between $4.1 and $5.9 billion.

Sydney would remain the city with the highest costs, with congestion costs rising from $6.1 billion a year now to between $9.5 billion and $12.6 billion by 2030.

Other notable increases include Melbourne, where values would rise from around $4.6 billion (2015) to between $7.6 and $10.2 billion; and Perth, which would increase from $2 billion to between $4.4 and $5.7 billion.

The study also estimates that under the expected patterns of population growth, total vehicle-kilometres travelled could increase by around two per cent a year to 2030, urban routes could take an average of about 28 minutes longer to traverse through during uncongested time (due to daily traffic congestion), and commercial vehicle traffic (such as vans, trucks and buses) could increase by around 2.7 per cent a year (due to increases in economic activity).

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